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Air Cargo at PDX Brings Critical Medical Supplies into Oregon

On the morning of Monday, May 11, a Cathay Pacific Airways Cargo flight landed at the Portland International Airport (PDX), bringing 500,000 3-ply medical face masks into the region. The masks were purchased by the State of Oregon, procured by local vendor Tricol Biomedical, and will be distributed to hospitals and health care providers in the region.

[Note: video and photos of the supplies arriving and unloading at PDX can be accessed here. They can be credited to the Port of Portland.]

“From the beginning of this crisis, it has been one of my top priorities to secure personal protective equipment for Oregon nurses, doctors, and all those fighting on the front lines of this pandemic to protect the health and safety of Oregonians,” said Governor Kate Brown. “As we begin to reopen our communities, it is critical that those front line workers continue to have adequate and necessary supplies of protective equipment to keep them safe. I’d like to thank the Port of Portland and Cathay Pacific for partnering with us in making this delivery possible.”

Securing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health care workers and first responders is a key part of Governor Brown’s framework for reopening Oregon safely. However, with high global demand for PPE, states like Oregon have run up against significant price obstacles and a lack of air cargo space. While the Oregon Department of Administrative Service (DAS) has worked hard to procure PPE through its vendors, they were having a difficult time getting these medical supplies from China into the region.

When the governor reached out to the Port of Portland for any help we could provide, our team immediately reached out to air cargo partners for support. Cathay Pacific jumped into action. The air cargo operation began service to PDX at the end of 2016, partnering with the Port and both the State of Oregon and Nike to bring this new Boeing 747-8F direct freighter service to Asia. This partnership has remained strong, and Cathay Pacific has made it a priority to assist Oregon in getting PPE to the state. 

“Cathay Pacific has been a phenomenal partner to Oregon and the Port,” said Keith Leavitt, chief commercial officer at the Port of Portland. “We are grateful for their work to continue to move products and goods to support businesses in Oregon and their expanded efforts to supply the region with critical medical supplies for hospitals and frontline workers.”

A second set of 500,000 3-ply medical face masks is expected to arrive on another Cathay Pacific flight in the next week.

“Cathay Pacific is very proud to assist in this mission to provide vital PPE supplies to the communities of the Pacific Northwest,” said Philippe Lacamp, Senior Vice President, Americas, Cathay Pacific Airways. “The Port of Portland and Portland International Airport have been tremendous partners to Cathay Pacific since we launched a dedicated freighter service in 2016 and we remain on stand-by to assist with future missions.”

Through the Port’s strong and long-term partnership with Delta Air Lines, another Oregon PPE vendor secured two Boeing 777 Delta cargo charter flights. Those PPE supplies will arrive over the next few weeks.

Over the last few months, the Port has also served as a resource partner for Oregon DAS, working to connect vendors to air cargo options and engage industry partners to answer import-related questions to ensure supplies could get cleared through customs and met U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards.

While passenger traffic is down significantly at PDX, air cargo continues to connect the region to critical goods, products and medical supplies. Air cargo is up 10% in April compared to the same period in 2019, and Cathay Pacific Cargo has maintained three flights a week between Portland and Hong Kong.


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